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Paul Pierce’s Confession Just Solved the Great Wheelchair Game Mystery. Or Did It?

The former Celtics star revealed Wednesday that his infamous wheelchair incident was really about him having “to go to the bathroom.” A few hours later, he took it back. Which Pierce story is the truth?

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

We can no longer call Paul Pierce “the Truth.” I can’t trust a damn word that he says.

His various predictions while working as an ESPN analyst this postseason have been awful. After the Celtics beat the Bucks in Game 1 of the second round, Pierce confidently declared that the series was “over.” There was perhaps a hint of bias there, as the Wizards legend also spent a portion of his career playing in Boston. Yet Milwaukee went on to win the next four games, proving Pierce as wrong as humanly possible. In the next round, Pierce predicted a Rockets blowout in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinals. Instead the Warriors won, ending the series. Pierce was wrong on both counts, although nobody is perfect at predicting sporting outcomes. (Well, except Carmelo Anthony’s homie Paul the Octopus. Never forget that the Octopus finished way higher than Pierce in our official Paul rankings.)

Pierce’s credibility took a much bigger blow on Wednesday night, though, as he told two separate tales about the defining incident of his career: Wheelchairgate, or as it will henceforth be known and should have been known for the past 11 years, Poopgate. In Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, Pierce infamously left the court in agony, with his Celtics teammates carrying him into a tunnel and then dropping him into a wheelchair. This was deeply concerning, since it’s exceedingly rare for a wheelchair to be brought out for a player—even players who suffer serious leg injuries often attempt to hobble off the court. Pierce appeared to be in so much pain that he couldn’t even stand. And then, less than two minutes of game time later, Pierce gleefully skipped back onto the court. He showed no symptoms of injury or fear of risking further damage, and scored 13 points in the game’s final 18 minutes to lead the Celtics to victory and set the stage for the first and only championship win of his career.

That incident has since been given the Zapruder film treatment, with one explanation for what happened emerging as particularly compelling: Some have speculated that Pierce pooped his pants during the game and quickly hatched a scheme to be removed from the floor without anybody seeing his stained shorts. This theory checks out from a logical perspective; the way Pierce was carried and placed in the wheelchair kept his butt out of sight from the cameras. And athletes do poop their pants during sporting events from time to time. However, The Ringer’s Jason Concepcion looked into this conspiracy and found that Pierce’s pants were notably unsoiled in the moments before the fall. Pierce’s original explanation—that he heard a pop, feared an ACL tear, and refused to walk out of fear of further injury—makes the most sense. The Poop Theory was little more than a niche internet joke about a strange historical event.

Until Wednesday night’s broadcast of Game 3 of the NBA Finals, that is. When ESPN’s Michelle Beadle noted that June 5 was the anniversary of the wheelchair game, Pierce stunningly confirmed the Poop Theory.

Pierce didn’t specify whether the wheelchair trip was a result of him pooping in his pants, but he said that he went to the bathroom and that the reason he needed the wheelchair is because “something went down.” Connect the dots. Jalen Rose gleefully commented, “You were streaking?!?!” Chauncey Billups chimed in, “The deuce!”

It was a strange admission from Pierce. Nobody was pressing him for poop details. Beadle merely mentioned the anniversary of the game in question and the bizarre nature of the wheelchair trip. Pierce just offered up the bathroom angle. One of the NBA’s great mysteries was solved!

However, just a few hours later, Pierce changed course, tweeting that the Poop Theory was false:

There are a few major problems with this tweet. The first is that he attempts to hashtag the “crying from laughter” emoji, which is not something that’s supported by the Twitter app. He could’ve just put the emoji there and it would’ve gotten his point across just fine, and it’s unclear exactly what function he thought the hashtag would perform. This was the latest in a long line of mobile technology struggles for Pierce.

But what baffles me most about this tweet is Pierce’s assertion that he is going to “bust the haters’ bubble.” Paul, the haters are not the ones insisting you pooped yourself in the NBA Finals. You did that. On national television. Like, two hours before. And nobody asked you to do it. You just, like, did it. You dropped that tidbit in, much like you allegedly dropped a turd into a pair of basketball shorts.

Which Paul should we believe? The Paul who told an unprompted story that referenced him crapping his shorts, or the Paul who denied the story a few hours later? Both versions check out. Many people have told embarrassing truths, immediately regretted it, and proceeded to backtrack as quickly as possible. It’s also possible that Pierce was having a laugh by winkingly confirming the Poop Theory, and telling the truth when he denied it.

But which series of events actually took place is now beside the point. Once a person hears Paul Pierce pooped his pants during an NBA Finals game and asked to be taken off the court and put in a wheelchair to hide it, they no longer need facts. There will always be a part of them, deep within their soul, that will believe.

And on Wednesday night, Pierce looked directly into a camera and told an audience of millions around the world that he pooped his pants during an NBA Finals game and asked to be taken off the court and put in a wheelchair to hide it. The truth doesn’t matter, because Paul Pierce isn’t the Truth anymore. He’s the guy who pooped his pants during the NBA Finals and asked to be taken off the court and put in a wheelchair to hide it.